A PAPER PRESENTED BY MRS KASIE ABONE AT THE SILVER JUBILEE CELEBRATION OF MASS COMMUNICATION DEPARTMENT OF NNAMDI AZIKIWE UNIVERSITY, AWKA ON JUNE 10, 2021
WHAT IS MASS COMMUNICATION: It is universally accepted that media is the fourth pillar of democratic governance. Media in its entirety equally has huge responsibilities in that it is mandated to inform the society about factual happenings.
Wikipedia simply described Mass Communication as ‘a process of imparting and exchanging information through mass media to a segment of the population.
TRAINING? WHY NOT? We all know that human resources are generated by the fundamental education system, which, in turn, depends on topnotch developments in media and technology. Starting from production of manuscripts, humans have been immensely benefitting in knowledge transmission from one generation to another – from Gutenberg’s era print media to the current digital media. In fact, digital revolution has brought different forms of mass media, including print (newspapers, magazines, journal), broadcast (radio, television), video, cinema and internet under one roof.
This underscores the importance of training for Mass Communication practitioners. You cannot achieve excellence in any field of endeavour without adequate training. Training therefore simply means equipping yourself with basic tools of knowledge or skill-sets needed to perform the task at hand.
FORMS OF TRAINING: Structured learning. As is seen in formal education institutions. This is often lecture or instructor led by the end of which the students who meet certain criteria are certified with a degree, diploma or some other class of certificate attached to the training.
Hands on or mentoring by a professional (on the job, in-house)
Internship (to gain professional experience)
E-learning (online resources, courses, videos, etc)
Workshops, seminars, etc.
CAREER IN MASS COMMUNICATION: When we talk of pursuing a career in the Mass Communication we come across two very common terms: Journalism and Advertising. The term Journalism, was earlier associated with print media. However, its evolution with time gradually enveloped news coverage for television, radio and other forms of mass media, a term used for news media, cinema, advertising, entertainment media, public relations activities etc.
Therefore job opportunities in Journalism and Mass Communication are no longer limited to newspapers, television or radio only. It includes openings in Advertising, Public Relations, online news portals, Cinema and Films, Corporate Communication, communication solution organizations and Graphic Designers. United Nations Organizations, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and media training academics also provide extremely good prospects and look for skilled workforce with a degree in journalism and mass communication.
Job opportunities for media men also exist in other fields of endeavour like in politics, oil and gas, etc. Unfortunately, not many institutions are running undegraduate programmes in Journalism and Mass Communication, particularly in relation to the new media like video production, editing etc. GIVE EXAMPLES OF ACHIEVERS
SKILL SETS: However, let me point out that the key to start a career in media is acquiring some skill sets one of which is a grasp of good language skill. Therefore a Bachelor’s or Master degree in Journalism will be of little use if you are not able to communicate your ideas and experiences clearly in a way that draw attention of your readers or listeners.
WRITING is at the heart of what we do. You must be very creative in your art of storytelling. Your story must be clear, concise and unambiguous. Being a creative writer defines you, sets you apart from the crowd and builds your personality brand with a supersonic speed. No matter your medium or audience, despite the deafening noise and clatter of the Social Media, ability to consistently tell a compelling story that grabs your audience’s attention is a sure key to stand out from the crowd.
Interestingly, the internet has made media content open to all subjects giving many people options to react or respond. New media, popularly called social media, which includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, etc has made it possible to bring information and entertainment from across the world in a pocket sized gadget (smartphones) and has created a global village. Besides making content assimilation and dissemination instantaneous, the 21st century mass media has converged all of its other forms. Simply put, online platforms have demolished the walls that divided the traditional media from its audience.(ERA OF KILLING STORY IS GONE)
BLOG: To start a career in journalism, I will advise you to start writing a blog. In addition, find time to intern with media companies as this will help you associate with people from the field of journalism as well as get a job experience. But the solid foundation in which such career is built is Academia. If the education system is not healthy enough it will be nearly impossible to have competent media practitioners that will help build a strong society.
In Nigeria’s current period of economic, social, political and ethnic upheaval, mass communication educators and trainers have a herculean task to fortify and significantly shape the future of Journalism. But the fundamental question is: will they rise to the occasion, armed with innovative, effective teaching methods backed by research? Or will they squander this unparalleled opportunity? The stakes are very high. All global citizens interested in maintaining a democratic society, or aspiring to live in a more open one, have roles to play.
At the moment, strong waves of self-determination are spreading across Nigeria, and vigorous assaults against media credibility are magnifying the need for truth, fairness, ethics, and logic in governance and civic life. Media owners and advocates, already engaged in a massive struggle to save quality Journalism from economic ruin, are being challenged by ramped-up attempts by government and other powerful interests to discredit Journalism as a whole.
The struggle to save Journalism’s reputation, and thus its effectiveness, is experiencing new urgency during an onslaught of “alternative facts,” “fake news,” and false equivalency charges. With the explosion of citizen journalism fully made possible by the social media revolution, the very value of facts, truth, information, and knowledge, the bedrock of Journalism and free societies, is under attack. What can those undergoing training in mass communication do after graduation to fight back this ugly trend?
The burden of verification, authentication or validation of facts of each story rest with the news gatherers (journalists) and gatekeepers (editors).
The simple steps to news validation or authentication is to demand that irrefutable evidence be in the story. This can come in the form of eye witness accounts, validation from authorities and spokespeople or community leaders, and visuals or videos.
Even when the facts at your disposal are credible or have been authenticated, due professional diligence demands the gatherers of the news and the gatekeepers should weigh up the materials to discern what should serve the common good. On this delicate balance lies the soul of the media and why it’s called the watchdog of the society. EG MURDER OF POLITICIAN. FREDS INTERVIEW
CURRICULAR: Therefore in developing curricula for the training of Mass Communications students, they must be designed to capture the key elements of facts, validation and responsibility for on this third tripod is where the ethics of the profession stand.
This ensures future journalists and media advocates are giving the best education possible to have a good start. Future journalists must learn how to find and use more varied, nuanced digital tools to deal with ever increasingly challenging circumstances.
They also need to know how to conduct quality investigative reporting based on verifiable facts during shifting landscapes such as we have found ourselves in Nigeria today. Curiosity raises many questions but a good journalist gets answers. A well-researched article produces knowledge articles that are readers delight.
The impact of technology on journalism is so profound that the journey aspect, often called leg-work, has assumed a new dimension. In fact, in certain areas, this can be dispensed with.
Many a good writer can source materials online and piece remarkable articles together in timely manner. But while that would do for features and analysis, news, as in timely reports on events as they happen or unfold require eye witnessing accounts of the event(s).
PERSISTENCE. You must be persistent. Writing is not a breezy task. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of persistence to craft a story. You may suffer from what is called journalists block. You should never give up. If you keep at it, keep pushing different perspectives may come up.
MULTI TASK/DIVERSE SKILLS: Ability to multi task sets you apart from the rest and makes you more marketable and a delight to editors. Eg, by acquiring proficiency in in graphic design, photography or ability to create a video for a marketing campaign, deliver presentations to a client, write press releases, etc. Don’t pigeonhole your professional growth, then develop specialty in an area of interest to you. You become toasts to your editors because you can multitask.
OPEN MINDEDNESS: A predisposed opinion has the tendency to reduce your story to a narrow minded, biased and judgmental piece. Everybody has a story. Your job is to present all sides to the story and allow your audience to form their opinion.
BE YOU, BE TRUE. PROMOTE YOURSELF: Learn your style. In every story you craft, sign your signature. Dare to differ. Allow yourself to resonate within your work. This is a must-have-skill that shows off your personality. Promote yourself by sharing your content. With the Social media you can have a high reach if you are good. Brag about it when your story trends. Why not?
AMBITION AND DESIRE TO SUCCEED: These two key elements will keep you on the job even when remuneration is not coming. They are great motivators.
Finally, they need to know how to report in a more transparent fashion and in a way that demonstrates Journalism’s value to a disillusioned public.
Are educators in this noble institution, Unizik, building more successful relationships not just among campus entities but also with industry, the public, foundations, nonprofit organizations, appropriate government bodies, etc., in hopes of better nurturing and guiding quality Journalism and media practice in their students?
As students of mass communication, you have to explore key strategies and gain effective tools to engage and inspire others across a variety of business contexts when you finally graduate.
I must add that you and your teachers must keep pace with the teaching and learning of new technical skills to help you as future mass communication practitioners better distinguish fact from fiction as you chart a successful career in the media. It’s only when you do this that you are guaranteed a place in the beautiful world that journalism promises.
Before I give you a peep into our world, let me warn that you must have to first survive the newsroom politics.
As more and more mass communication graduates leave the training institutions, the world gets more and more competitive. Once you have acquired those skills and you land yourself a job, some of the survival strategies you must adopt include:
PITCH YOUR STORIES: Most times you find out that you have to get your story out. No one is going to do it for you. When your stories are “killed”, ask questions. Don’t seat idly by and hope that it won’t happen again or get frustrated.
GO FOR THE TOUGH JOB: Go for jobs others are less inclined to do, jobs others find difficult to do. It’s a speed accelerator. It could put your name on the map.
CHOOSE A MALE DOMINATED BEAT: Eg sports, business, crime, agriculture, energy, etc. This underscores your readiness to compete and the hand of fellowship can be amazing. Men are often more willing to lend helping hands to their female counterparts.
DILIGENCE: Write and talk about serious issues. For instance, those who cover beats, generally regarded as less tasking, are not regarded as serious journalists. And because they’re generally lax, remove them from those beats, many of them will be like fish out of water. Journalism can be very tasking, mentally and physically.
COURT YOUR SUPERVISORS: This is very key as some of them may be out to frustrate your efforts no matter how proficient you are at your craft. A little bit of eye-service goes a long way.
THE BEAUTIFUL WORLD OF JOURNALISM: Journalism is like opium, once you are hooked, you may never get out. Ever seen a very bold and confident man. He probably is a journalist.
The journalism profession places the world at your feet. You can take on anybody over any issue. It compels you to read vast, probably as you prepare to interview someone, you have to read up about him/her so that you can be on top of your game.
Once, you have done that again and again, nothing fazes you anymore. Rather, the world acknowledges you, for whom you are and what you have done. So take advantage and explore:
SEE THE WORLD. WORK ABROAD: If you are adventurous, journalism is it for you. Do you want to see amazing places, experience different cultures as you globe throttle on someone else’s bills; do you want to earn money on the go; get visas just for the asking. I-Visa gives you an opportunity to live and work in the USA. Attend international meetings. Lodge in the most palatial hotels. Savour exotic dishes. Be treated like a princess or a king.
POWER IS SWEET: You might have heard that the pen is mightier than the sword. But please don’t abuse it. The consequences maybe more dangerous and humiliating than you can ever imagine.
DINE WITH KINGS: Journalism puts you on the spotlight. It brings you into the same room with high net-worth individuals, very important and interesting people from every sphere of life. But never try to outshine your boss or take advantage of your relationship. That you are close to VIPs, wine and dine with them, doesn’t make you a VIP. Your network is your net-worth. You are not the news-maker you are only a news-breaker!
KEY TO EXCLUSIVE EVENTS: You are invited to exclusive events. Even where some dignitaries cannot get in, the doors open very wide as a journalist steps in. Opportunity to meet and interview dignitaries. Ability to witness history made. But be careful not to gatecrash. It can be very embarrassing.
GATEWAY TO BETTER JOBS: With your contacts, your footprints and your ability to manage relationships, you can get a better job. You can also seamlessly switch jobs.
EARN GOOD MONEY OR HAVE OPPORTUNITY TO EARN MONEY: Being a good writer puts money into your pocket. Besides, doors of opportunities to do other businesses open with ease.
LET’S YOU GROW IN CHARACTER: Some events you witness can remold you. Eg, accident or crime scenes. Interacting with people of diverse backgrounds and callings helps you understand life better as well as expands your worldview. It frees you from being trapped in a narrow shallow corner.
DIFFERENT WORLD OF KNOWLEDGE: Journalism opens up to different world of knowledge. You are a moving encyclopedia. You know a little about everything.
REMAKE THE WORLD: Through your articles published in different media channels, people get to know what happens. With objective and balanced reportage, you can shape the world even as people have confidence in you.
FUN MOMENTS: Journalism is most part fun. You have fun while you work. Gigs. Parties. Different locations and venues. Covering different events. Gifts souvenirs. Eat good food. Meet interesting people. Enjoy different forms of entertainment, etc.
JOB HAZARDS: It’s not all fun. As we say in Igboland, what is delicious can equally be poisonous. Learn to strike a delicate balance between mixing with people and doing your professional duty. Any little abuse can throw you out and people who hitherto sought opportunities to meet with you would easily shut the door at your face, or even scheme again you, mortally.
So, better arm yourself with caution, knowing that:
Its dangerous out there. You can get killed. Avoid blackmail. No double standards. Keep off record so – Don’t abut privileged information.
Mostly poorly paid and irregular renumeration.
Work in dangerous territories like crime scene, war zones, terrorist camps, religious matters, etc.,
Some people won’t just like you. They may just be tolerating you. Some flee at the mention of the word Journalist.
Can cause problems in homes. Working late hours, not always at home can disrupt the peace and unity of the home as well as affect the children upbringing.
Working on deadline can be very stressful. Work overload, working on controversial topics, etc can induce stress.
Witch hunting at work place. Your superior may just decide to frustrate you in so many ways.